Iconic Paintings

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Paintings

Charles I Insulted by Cromwell’s Soldiers

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During the Second World War, great pieces of art were not merely looted or lost; they also suffered war damages. One such piece was Charles I Insulted by Cromwell’s Soldiers by Hippolyte Delaroche, which was thought to have been destroyed during the London Blitz.

Delaroache had a very successful career painting melodramatic and wholly fictitious interpretations of history in that mawkishly sentimental age. His Charles I was no different; the painting depicts the moment when Charles I was taunted by the victorious soldiers of Oliver Cromwell, one of whom was blowing pipe smoke in his face. Although his portrayal of the royal paunch was no flattery, Delaroache nonetheless drew parallels between Charles’ situation and the scene in the Passion known as The Mocking of Christ, and between the Cromwellian regicide and that of the French Revolution.

While Delaroche wanted to explore the violence of the French Revolution, the events which took place merely a generation earlier were too recent and too taboo to paint directly. Instead, Delaroche took refuge in equally violent Tudor and Stuart history. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s, he painted English history — in a series of canvases which were popular in Britain — and only in 1851 would he deliver his careful study, Marie Antoinette before the Tribunal.

The painting above was inspired by Van Dyck’s famous triple portrait of Charles I. Measuring 4 by 3 metres, it was commissioned by the 1st Earl of Ellesmere, and after debuting at the Paris Salon in 1837, remained in the hands of his family. Due to the 5th Earl having been captured at Dunkirk, the family artworks were not stored and cataloged properly during the war. On 11 May 1941 — the last night of the Blitz — a bomb landed right outside the family’s London home, severely damaging the painting. It was thought to have been destroyed, but later rediscovered in the family attic in 2009. Since then, it had hung in the National Gallery, London.


Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 3, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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